Najib condemns Pyongyang ban as 'abhorrent', calls for release of Malaysians

Beatrice Nita Jay

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today strongly condemns Pyongyang’s decision to prevent all Malaysian citizens from leaving North Korea, and has called for their immediate release.

Najib said the “abhorrent” act, which is tantamount to holding Malaysians hostage, is in total disregard of all international law and diplomatic norms.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms North Korea's decision to prevent Malaysian citizens from leaving the country.

“This abhorrent act, effectively holding our citizens hostage, is in total disregard of all international law and diplomatic norms,” said Najib.

“Our hope is for a swift resolution. I call upon the North Korean leadership to immediately allow our citizens to leave to avoid any further escalation.”

He also said that an emergency meeting of the National Security Council will be convened. Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar has also been instructed to prevent all North Koreans in Malaysia from leaving the country until the safety and security of all Malaysians in North Korea has been assured.

“As a peace-loving nation, Malaysia is committed to maintaining friendly relations with all countries. However, protecting our citizens is my first priority, and we will not hesitate to take all measures necessary when they are threatened,” he said.

This morning, North Korea declared that all Malaysians currently in North Korea have been barred from leaving the country.

The move, seen by many as effectively holding the Malaysians hostage, comes amid an increasingly heated diplomatic row over the killing of Kim Jong-Nam in Kuala Lumpur.